Can landlord cut off electricity over dispute?

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - Nearly half of Houstonians are renters. It's why we're looking out for your renter's rights.

People living at a southwest Houston apartment complex called consumer expert Amy Davis when they said managers shut off their electricity.

"The only thing I can say to them is what they're doing is not right," said Yovel Torres.

Torres' parents live at the Villas of Hillcroft apartment complex. Translating for them, Torres told consumer expert Amy Davis that the maintenance man cut the electricity going to his parents' apartment after a noise complaint from the neighbors.

"My mom had an argument with the office and when she was coming back the house, she seen the maintenance man passing and she found out the lights cut off already," explained Torres.

Local 2 looked at the breaker box and found all of the switches for Torres' parents' apartment completely missing.

Several buildings away, renter Wayne Bell told us managers shut off his power earlier in the month when he withheld a portion of his rent because maintenance hadn't addressed needed repairs.

Under Texas law, an owner cannot interupt electricity, gas or water for nonpayment of rent. Your landlord can evict you, but they cannot cut off your electricity.

"You can only interrupt utilities if there's an actual problem with the utilities and you're fixing it," said Andy Teas of the Houston Apartment Association.

No one from the leasing office would talk on camera, but off camera, the manager told Davis that a maintenance man accidentally cut off the Torres' power. He denied cutting off Bell's electricity at all.

So what can you do if this happens to you? First, gather proof or evidence that your electricity has been shut off. Then you can sue to be let out of your lease through a Justice of the Peace court. You don't need an attorney.

For information on how to file a case in a JP court in Harris County, visit this website:

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